Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: The Outsiders

Daily Prompt:

Tell us about the experience of being outside, looking in — however you’d like to interpret that.

Today was another topical prompt for me, and I’ll use it shamelessly as a teaser of things to come. I have just completed the editing (thanks to my editor in chief, Linda) and revising of my book. I plan to take a class in marketing and selling an eBook /POD this month, and hope to have the book ready to go by the end of the six-week class. It is a children’s book, targeted for the middle grade reader, but I think its message is one best heeded by us all.

Imagine a scenario where a cataclysm strikes the earth at some point in the future, and the remnants of humanity have taken sanctuary in caverns deep beneath the surface. Their civilization has thrived for many generations, powered by an array of massive machines, A boy named  Ke, determined to become a storyteller, learns of an “Outside” to his world. His imagination drives him to discover what this “Outside “might look like.  With his elder, friend, Tuck, a girl named Mira and a very special animal companion named Tip, Ke begins his quest, just as the massive machines powering his world begin to fail. His quest now becomes a matter of life and death  for his people…

Imagine if you could discover the world, all over again…

Stay tuned!

(Note: an early version of this book was presented on my Focus On: Fiction blog with the working title: The Storyteller.)


Staying in Focus: Winding Up the Old Year: Fun and Fantasy

Not only are the holidays over, but we are already in the fourth day of the new year.  We just arrived home on Wednesday and  I spent most of the day Thursday taking down the Christmas decorations. We had a great visit with the family in New Jersey and  our friends in Poughkeepsie.  It  was cold and one day we were pretty much snowed in. Big snowflakes floated down all day.IMG_0048

I had brought my laptop along and decided to try a creative writing exercise to pass the time.  The instructions were that the story begin with “The snow fell…”, and end with a twist.  With it being Christmas and all, and snowing to boot, here’s what I came up with.

Where do writers find their inspiration? Perhaps this is how one legend began…

The Stuff of Legends

Snow fell like a box of soap flakes shaken wildly in the hands of a young child.  Large clumps settled on the frozen ground in mounds and drifts of white. The snowflakes fell in curtains, hurtling down in perfect formation from sky to earth , as if with the intent to change the landscape into the vista of an alien world.

The traveler, lost in the folds of his heavy coat, pulled his wide brimmed hat over his eyes and buried his chin into the woolen scarf wrapped round his neck. He walked slowly, tensing his leg muscles to pull his feet free from the heavy, clinging snow, each step an effort which added to his growing fatigue.  He was lost in this frozen wilderness and each flake that touched him seemed to penetrate his clothes, seeking to crystallize him from the inside out.

 An eerie stillness surrounded him, and he felt as if he had been transported to another world.  The silence wrapped round him like a cocoon and ethereal shapes seemed to form and drift before his eyes.

He fought the urge to close his eyes and fall into the downy snow and rest, just for a few minutes. It looked so soft, so inviting…And then he heard the unmistakable sound of tinkling harness bells, somewhere up ahead.  He peered through the curtain of snow and vaguely made out the shapes of horses and a sleigh.

“Whoa-ho, boys,” he heard a voice shout.  And out of the swirling snow emerged a fellow, dressed warmly in furs and sturdy boots, his hair frosted white with snow beneath his cap, cheeks cherry red from the cold.

“My, my, stranger”, he said,” what brings you out on such a night, in such a desolate place?”

“I was on my way to the village of Amesbury to visit friends when I became lost in the snow,“ the traveler replied.                                                                                                                                                                                                         

“Well, let me help you into my sleigh. I’ve never heard of Amesbury but there is a village nearby. I’m sure someone there will shelter you for the night.  I am on my way there to deliver some goods,” he said, pointing to a large sack lying in the back of the sleigh.  

The traveler climbed into the sleigh with a thankful sigh. The hearty fellow jumped in and grabbed the reins.  “Onward-ho, boys,” he shouted to the horses.

Within a few minutes, the traveler saw lights ahead, the warm glow of the village homes, softening the dark and cold of the night.

“Here you are, my friend, the fellow said, “the village of Legend.”

Odd name for a village, the traveler thought. He shook hands with the jolly fellow. “How can I return your kindness, Sir?”  the traveler asked.

“If you would take this sack to the village and leave a package at each abode, I would be most grateful. They are poor but proud.  They frown on handouts, but gifts left in the night, now that’s the stuff of legends.”

. There was that word again – legends.  “Are you a writer, Sir? “ the traveler asked.

The man laughed .” I do dabble with the written word, now and again,” he replied.

The traveler climbed down and grabbed the heavy sack.  “I will do as you ask. Thank you, again, for your kindness.”

“It is I who thank you,.  The storm has slowed my progress and It’s late, you see.  I’ve  a young daughter waiting for me at home,  to tell her a story before bed.”  As he turned and grabbed the reins, he asked, “By the way, what is your name, my friend?”

“Nick. My name is Nick.”

“Ah, and so it is.”  said the fellow.  “Nick it will be..”

“I don’t understand, Sir , what do you mean?”

“Ah, remember, it’s the stuff of legends, my friend.”

And with that his horses sprang forward and disappeared, lost in the heavy snow.“And your name, my friend. What is your name?” Nick shouted into the night.

As if from far away came the faint reply.

“Moore. Clement Moore.”

Nick flung the sack on his back and headed into Legend and into the hearts of us all!                                                       

                                            The End…or the beginning?

Despite the snow, I was able to join some of my high school friends, which included my sister-in-law, Pat,and friends Joanne and Janice for a High Tea at “High Societea”  My niece, Becky, and her friend, Sheralyn, accompanied us.  The food was excellent, although the service was a bit slow.  The place was charming, however, and we had a good time.

A cozy teapot

A cozy teapot

Me at High Societea

Me at High Societea

Becky and Sheralyn

Becky and Sheralyn




We also traveled to Poughkeepsie and visited with our good friends, Denise and Geoff and their daughters and adorable grandchildren.

Abigail and Lucas

Abigail and Lucas

Denise and grandson Colin

Denise and grandson Colin



Ernie and son Colin

Ernie and son Colin

So we ended 2012 with good times with friends and family.  Now it’s time to look ahead to the new year and all the possibilities it holds in store for us. May it be one of peace and prosperity for us all!

Staying in Focus: What If The Story had Started Like This?

This is creative writing exercise I recently  completed.  I had to find ten unfamiliar words, to include in the story, and then pick a character from a list to be the protagonist. How could I pass up Scarlett O’Hara? Length of passage 1,000 words.

ten new words:

1. bumptious   adj.   brash

2. horology n.  art of making timepieces

3. lavabo  n.   a basin holding water for washing

4. moire n.  watered silk or wool fabric

5   jass  n.  a card game for two

6. panatela   n. a thin cigar

7. ratafia n. an almond flavored liqueur

8. soidisant  adj.  so-called

9 .theorbo  n .  a 17th century lute-like musical instrument

10. nixie   n.   a female water sprite

Character:  Scarlett  O’Hara

What if the story started like this?

Scarlett O’Hara sat primly on the cushioned bench, folds of moire billowing around her.  She loved the way the forest green, watered silk material seemed to glow in the afternoon light. The forest green accented her emerald green eyes, which sparkled with delight as a horse and buggy made the turn onto the tree lined drive that lead to Tara.  Ashley had come as promised, to whisk her off to a day of visiting friends at neighboring plantations.

“My, my, Scarlett, you do look pretty today,” Ashley said as he brought the buggy to a halt.  “Quite the nixie, you are my dear.” The horse nickered softly as Ashley stepped down from the buggy and handed the reins to Jeb, one of Tara’s darkies charged with watering the horses of visitors to the plantation.

“Oh, Ashley, how you do go on with those words you find in all those books you read!  You confuse me with such talk!”

“A nixie, my dear, is a water sprite of the forest. An enchanting, elusive creature, one must treat with the utmost delicacy,” he explained, as he took her gloved hand and kissed it gently.

Scarlett missed most of what he said, trying to still her rapidly beating heart, lest Ashley hear it pounding so. To distract him she asked, “Ashley, before we depart, can I have Prissy bring you a ratafia to refresh you?’

“Ah, that would be most welcome, dear Scarlett.   May I also request a laveboto wash off my dusty hands?  It has been a dry and dusty summer.”   Ashley sat down next to Scarlett, as she motioned to the waiting Prissy to procure the requested items.  As Prissy turned to enter the house, Ashley drew a slim box out of his coat pocket, and handed it to Prissy.

“For Mr. O’Hara, with my regards, “Ashley said.  Scarlett knew the box contained panatelas, her father’s favorite cigar.

“Ashley, you are so thoughtful to remember how much Pa favors those cigars.”

“Well, I wouldn’t want your pa to think me a bumptious fellow,” Ashley replied.

Scarlett sighed.  She wished Ashley would use the same words everyone else used. She turned to him and asked, , “How do they fare at Twelve Oaks, Ashley?”  Scarlett loved Ashley’s home.  Though she also loved Tara, Twelve Oaks had a grace that the more rustic Tara lacked.  Scarlett wasn’t really concerned about the other folk at Twelve Oaks.  She just wanted to be sure that Melanie Hamilton, Ashley’s cousin, wasn’t visiting again. Scarlett did not like the way Melanie blended in with the family and the plantation.  It was as if she belonged there.  And if anyone was going to marry Ashley and move into Twelve Oaks, it would not be that mealy-mouthed cousin.  Scarlett had chosen Ashley for herself.

Prissy arrived with the basin and the liqueur.  Ashley rinsed off his hands and toweled them dry, then accepted the thin glass of ratafia and took a slip. “It has been a busy week. We learned to play a card game called jass from an associate of my father’s,   a gentleman from Charleston. We also welcomed a fascinating gentleman from Savannah who is a master in the art of horology.

Seeing the confused look on Scarlett’s face, he explained, “He is a maker of timepieces, the finest I have ever seen.” Ashley’s family seemed to be overly concerned about time, Scarlett thought.   In their garden they had a sundial on which was inscribed, “Do not squander time; it is the stuff life is made of.” Scarlett thought, however, that the Wilkes squandered time more than anyone, spending hours reading books and reciting poetry.

Ashley continued telling her about the events of the past week, but as Melanie’s name was not mentioned, she became lost in her own thoughts.  How to get Ashley to become a more romantic companion was the question which perplexed her the most.  So far he was ever the epitome of a proper southern gentleman, but Scarlett craved more than a kiss on the hand. She had to move things along somehow, without compromising her virtue, of course.

Scarlett realized that Ashley had finished his drink and one-sided conversation. She turned to him, smiling prettily, her dimples accenting her smile.  She put her hand gently on his arm.  “Well, shall we be about our business, Ashley, and pay some calls on our friends and neighbors?”  Scarlett didn’t really care about these friends and neighbors either, for to tell the truth, none of them liked her very much. She imagined it was mostly due to jealousy. Ashley was, after all, the catch of the county.  But she endured these visits because it gave her more time with Ashley, and she liked to rub their noses in their jealousy by seeing her in constant company with the dashing Ashley Wilkes.

Scarlett put on her bonnet, tying the bow securely beneath her chin.  Perhaps she could convince Ashley to give the horses some proper exercise, and let them run full out.  Jeb brought the horse and buggy around from the stables in back of the house, and Ashley assisted Scarlett into the vehicle.  As he took the reins, he filled her in on their destination.

“I have a surprise for you, my dear.  Please forgive me the subterfuge. We are actually going to Twelve Oaks.  I have arranged for several friends to meet us there.  My cousin, Melanie, is coming in from Atlanta, with a group of musicians who play theorbos. They have agreed to provide us with a concert during lunch.

Scarlett tried not to show her disappointment.  “What is a theorbo,  Ashley?”

“A theorbo is a lute like instrument, from the …”

Scarlett could contain herself no longer.  She felt her vision change to red.  With a shout of “Whoa” to the horses, she grabbed the reins from Ashley’s startled hands and said, “Please forgive the subterfuge, Ashley, and vacate the buggy.  You see, I am an actually a bumptious woman wearing a moire frock and not a proper soidisant southern belle. I like a nice glass of ratafia now and again, maybe even a slim panatela.  And I do not plan to squander time listening to theorbos all afternoon.  She gave Ashley a little push, and he climbed down from the buggy.  He stared at Scarlett, speechless, as she cracked the whip and let the horses run full out, the ribbons of her bonnet trailing in the wind.

She saw a rider ahead, riding toward her, a tall man in a black coat riding a black stallion. He doffed his hat to her as she raced by. Scarlett turned and blew him a kiss…

Word Count : 1,117